committee discusses important issues related to NRI funding, including the total budget for the program, the average size and length of grants, and the limit on overhead rates.

ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES

Location in USDA

USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area comprises four agencies—the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Economics Research Service (ERS), the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) (figure 6–1). CSREES comprises nine units, including the Competitive Research Grants and Awards Management Division (CRGAM). Other CSREES units are responsible for allocating formula funds and special grants to land grant institutions, agricultural experiment stations, and cooperative extension services. The NRI is one of four operating units in CRGAM (figure 6–2). The NRI therefore is two organizational levels below USDA’s main intramural research organizations—ARS and ERS.

A previous National Research Council report (NRC, 1989) presented four criteria to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various options for locating an expanded competitive grants programs (the NRI) within USDA. In particular, for such a competitive grants program to be successful, the location should

  • Ensure the program’s openness to high-quality science and provide it with broad appeal, visibility, and stature in the scientific community.

  • Provide the program director and chief scientists with direct access to key high-level policy-makers in USDA.

  • Develop strong relations between the competitive grants program and the research programs of other agencies.

  • Attract nationally prominent scientists and managers to positions of program leadership and to service on program advisory committees and peer-review panels.

On the basis of the analyses presented in the previous chapters and the results of the committee’s survey (see appendix C), the committee believes that the location of the NRI in USDA has several shortcomings with respect to those criteria. First, the location does not provide the NRI with broad appeal, visibility, and stature in the scientific community. Second, the two organizational levels between the NRI and the under secretary for research, education, and economics (CSREES and CRGAM) can limit the access of NRI leaders to such high-level USDA policy-makers. Third, the NRI’s location



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